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Freedom through Restriction

By Dave Stuart Jr.

Which is freer:

  • to check your social media accounts any time you feel like it, or to do so at a single, designated time each day, and with a timer set to ten minutes or less?
  • to give yourself an unlimited amount of time to read the professional development books on your shelf, or to give yourself an hour to read just one, gaining as much as you can in sixty minutes?
  • to allow yourself to watch any TV show or movie you'd like, any night of the week, or to limit yourself to watching things only one night a week, and the other nights after the kids are in bed you read or you talk to a real person?
  • to keep  your classroom open at all times of the school day and to welcome every student in at any time, or to only have your door open at select times, and to make those times when your task is just to connect with or tutor or mentor visitors?

Often, I find that the path to real freedom is marked by purposeful restrictions, not “blank check” permissions. When I close my classroom door, I'm more loving when it's open (and I'm a better teacher with a better curriculum when class is in session, and I'm able to stick to my fixed schedule). When my normal is not watching a show or movie, I come to do the things I really want to do (read the books on the shelves, talk with my wife) rather than the things I'm compelled to do.

When the good, enjoyable things in our lives become oppressive, unmanageable things, it might be time to rethink things.

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3 Responses to Freedom through Restriction

  1. N.Andre June 20, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    You have made great points…freedom comes with restrictions. The best restrictions are self-imposed and based on self-discipline, a notion of mission, and an exercise of self-agency. I think a good extrapolation of this principle is to our political situation. I know this is an education blog and I love it and what you do Dave, but working in the inner city of NYC, I see too many teachers impose their political views on students without restrictions. While they think they are serving the better good, they are being manipulative and many times lack information in what they are discussing. I was appalled by a History/Government teacher impose a Venn Diagram on a class that compared Nixon’s Watergate and Trump and this disaster of an investigation. They were imposing their viewpoint on young minds. Is that fair? How about some restictions and self-restraint in the area of political proselytizing!
    Thanks Dave – Your’re a GEM!!!!

    • davestuartjr July 5, 2017 at 11:46 am #

      N.Andre, I think you are correct to say that in situations like this, teachers certainly believe they are serving the better good. This present political climate is so tricky — the polarization is real, insidious force that so easily slips into us and makes our biases unconscious. In terms of the Venn Diagram you mention, this teacher is likely just repeating something that I saw more than one commentator do during the month of June.

      It is just a tricky time, N.Andre — and I myself don’t even know how to navigate it well, in the conversations that I have with students and friends and family members. I just push for good, Fulkersonian arguments — evidence-based, open-minded, exploratory.

      Thank YOU! 🙂

  2. patrycja June 21, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    Yes! Freedom through restriction works!
    After wasting so much precious time in email, I began to read it only in the mornings.
    Now I need to figure out how to apply this philosophy to marking papers 🙂
    Thanks for the reminder as I plan for the next year.

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